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A Face Like an Angel
Perhaps Paul reported to Luke the remarkable appearance of the face of Stephen. Luke told Theophilus that those in the council saw Stephen's face "as the face of an angel." The closest thing to this experience is found in Exo_34:29-35 which reports that Moses' face shone after he had been with the Lord to the point that people could not look directly at him. Despite Stephen's appearance, the high priest asked him if the accusations of blasphemy, which had been brought against him, were true ( Act_6:15 ; Act_7:1 ).
This man, full of faith, power, wisdom and the Holy Spirit ( Act_6:3 ; Act_6:8 ), directed his answer toward a history of God's dealings with Abraham and his children. It seems significant that a man accused of blasphemy would begin his defense by talking about the "God of glory." He reminded the council of Abraham's call to leave the country of his people, which was first received in Ur of the Chaldees and renewed in Haran after his father's death. As Stephen noted, Abraham then moved, under God's direction, to the land of Canaan ( Act_7:2-4 ; Gen_12:1-9 ).
Though God did not give Abraham an inheritance in the promised land, he did promise to give him a son and to give the land of Canaan to his descendants. Stephen also said God told the father of the faithful his children's children would be held in bondage in Egypt for four hundred years. The actual length of their stay in Egypt was 430 years, but Stephen rounded off to 400, just as God had in Gen_15:13 . He continued his speech by noting how God told Abraham he would judge the nation of Egypt and bring his people out to serve him in the land of promise at the end of the appointed time. Ash notes Stephen mentioned God judges all those who oppose him, which is a good observation for those members of the council who were at that time questioning him. After making those significant promises, God instituted circumcision as a part sign of the covenant between Abraham and his descendants ( Act_7:5-8 ; Exo_12:40-41 ; Gen_17:9-14 ).
Life In Egypt
Abraham's great-grandson, Joseph, was sold into Egypt because of the jealousy of his own brothers. Coffman sees this incident as prefiguring the rejection of God's intended deliverer on the cross of Calvary. But God, in his providence, noted Joseph's mistreatment and delivered him. He went on to make him governor over the land of Egypt. A great famine left Jacob and his household without food to sustain them. So, having heard of the plentiful food in Egypt, he sent his sons to purchase grain on two separate occasions. On the second, Joseph revealed his identity to his brethren and let Pharaoh know who they were.
Joseph, with the approval of Pharaoh, sent wagons to bring his aged father to Egypt. Seventy-five souls left Canaan for the land of Egypt. Jacob's body was carried back to Shechem to be laid in the cave of Machpelah alongside those of Abraham and Sarah. God had not forgotten his promise to Abraham and as days passed, the children of Israel multiplied from the original seventy-five until they appeared to be a menace to the Egyptians. Additionally, a king ascended to the throne who did not recall the salvation of Egypt by the hand of Joseph. The king mistreated them by placing them in bondage and slaying their babies ( Act_7:9-19 ).
Moses' Rejection By God's People
Into such a climate, Moses was born, a child particularly pleasing to God. He was hidden by his parents for three months. Afterward, God caused him to be found by Pharaoh's daughter and reared as if he were her own son. He was taught everything the Egyptians of his day knew. He was a strong man in word and deed. At the age of forty, he visited God's people. He killed an Egyptian who was mistreating one of his brethren. Stephen says he thought they would understand God intended to deliver them by his hand but had to flee when a Jew questioned his authority and revealed he knew of the Egyptian's death. He fled to Midian, where he married and had two sons ( Act_7:20-29 ).
When Moses was eighty, God spoke to him from a burning bush in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. God told him He had seen His people suffering in Egypt and heard their groaning. He told Moses that he would deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Stephen reminded his listeners that God did deliver His people from Egyptian bondage, the Red Sea and forty years in the wilderness by the hands of the very one who the children of Israel had previously rejected ( Act_7:30-36 ).
That very deliverer was the one who foresaw the day God would raise up another prophet like him. Moses faithfully worked with those Jews who had been called out of bondage. Through him, they had heard God's living message. Yet, while Moses was receiving God's will on Mount Sinai, the people were rejecting that very will and turning back, at least in their hearts, toward Egypt. When they got Aaron to make the golden calf for them to worship, the people were effectively rejecting the Almighty. He, in turn, gave them up to serve worthless idols. Stephen quoted from Amo_5:25-27 to show their rejection was the reason they were led away into Babylonian captivity ( Act_7:37-43 ).
God's True House
The pattern for the making of the tabernacle was one of the things God revealed through Moses. Very clearly, Stephen noted that God intended for His pattern to be followed exactly ( Heb_8:5 ). David, partly out of feelings of guilt aroused when he saw the splendor in which he lived in contrast to the simplicity of the tabernacle, wanted to build God a temple ( 1Ki_8:17-18 ; 1Ch_28:3 ). Of course, he was refused because he was a man of war. Instead, Solomon, David's son, was allowed to build a temple.
Yet, Stephen quickly went on to note that the Creator does not dwell in temples made with men's hands. Two quotes from Isa_66:1-2 and Psa_102:25 clearly show He cannot be confined like the gods of the pagans ( Act_7:44-50 ; 1Ki_8:27 ). Instead, the universe, which He made, is His throne!
Stephen Slain For Preaching the Truth
Like their fathers before them, Stephen accused the members of the council of having necks so rock hard that they could not bow before God. Though they had been circumcised in the flesh, their hearts were still encased in sinful flesh. Just like their fathers before them had persecuted and killed those prophets who foretold the coming of God's Just One, Stephen said they had betrayed and murdered the Just One! He accused them of receiving God's will by the service of angels yet refused to keep it!
The truth cut into their hearts and they ground their teeth in rage at his words. The Lord's Spirit had inspired him to speak and now caused him to look intently into heaven. There he saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the Father's right hand. When he told the council what he saw, they cried out, stopped their ears, rushed to him, threw him outside of the city and stoned him. Luke notes those who stoned Stephen laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul ( Act_7:51-60 ).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 7". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany